What’s All The Noise About?

Do you remember the war on noise pollution back in the day?  The big push for a quieter world?  The police used to hand out repair orders for noisy exhausts on hot rods when we were young—so called “Fix-It” tickets.  That’s what I remember most from when we were young and first got our drivers licenses. We were foolish teenagers with glass pack mufflers and loud exhaust pipes. 

Because airport noise was intolerable for airport neighbors, jet engine manufacturers have worked tirelessly to come up with cleaner, quieter engines and they’ve done a good job.  Today’s modern jetliners are considerably quieter than their predecessors of the Jet Age.  Power and fuel efficiency without the noise and smoke.   Airlines and Air Traffic Control have come up with noise abatement procedures for pilots to follow to reduce the spread of noise.    

Virtually every type of consumer product imaginable promotes quiet operation.  I’m talking quieter dishwashers, garbage disposals, oscillating fans, lawnmowers, power saws, sanders, automobiles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, off-road vehicles, hairdryers, bulldozers, semi-trucks, bathroom fans, and a host of others. 

Whatever happened to the war on noise? 

I live on the high desert 60 miles north of Los Angeles.  Twenty years ago, the high desert was a quieter place.  You could open the windows on a summer night and bask in the peace and quiet with a light balmy breeze coming through the window. 

Desert quiet has since given way to outrageously loud exhaust systems and offensive home invading subwoofer sound systems.  You know—these ridiculously powerful $10,000 sound systems installed in worn out beat up $500 sport compacts.  These clowns would rather buy the ten grand sound system than have a vehicle with working brakes and decent tires with tread on them. 

Subwoofers wouldn’t be so bad were the noise confined to the interior of the automobile.  Instead, this low frequency, low octane mentality “boom” is forced onto those forced to live with it throughout the community. There doesn’t seem to be any real effort to stop it.  It is impossible to go anywhere without your bones being rattled at a traffic light.  I consider it an intrusion into my vehicle’s inner world.  There’s no escaping the low IQ racket. 

Some Southern California communities have chosen to outlaw subwoofers.  If you’re pulled over for disturbing the peace with a subwoofer sound system, the police impound your sound system along with a hefty fine.  This approach has been effective in some communities.  Enforcement works.  Unfortunately, few communities enforce noise ordinances because there are not enough cops and the masses are forced to live with it. Defund the police? Are you kidding me?


I was born into the rock and roll era like most of us were.  We have a solid appreciation for loud music and ear-busting live concerts.  That’s why so many of us are stone deaf today and in need of hearing aids.  Our parents warned us about loud music and what it was doing to our hearing.  We weren’t listening and it was no big deal—in 1968.  How naïve were we?  We are paying dearly decades later.  When conversation becomes impossible in a restaurant or on a road trip, we are reminded of our foolishness as young people 50 years ago.  We can no longer hear nor understand human voice.  We are frustrating for the people who live around us.

I speak from experience.  My audiologist defined my hearing loss as “profound…”  “Profound” hits home whenever I listen to period pop music or classical music and it just doesn’t sound the same.  The higher notes cannot be heard and the music goes flat.  The richness and crispness are gone.  I watch young people doing the same stupid stuff we did a half century ago and I want to warn them—but what’s the use?  Like us 50 years ago, it just doesn’t apply to them.

In a high-tech world with noise-canceling headsets and soundproof automobiles, it is remarkable how bad noise pollution has become.  Jets are quieter—Main Street is not.  Young bucks with these buzzy sport compacts, monster trucks, and modern day muscle cars shatter the peace and quiet with their high decibel rides.  I am about a mile from the freeway and I hear them jumping on at wide-open throttle. This is not only annoying – it is dangerous.

I love Harley motorcycles, however, they’re the biggest noise offenders out there with straight pipes and a concussive exhaust tone.  When bikers have a get together, typically to raise funds for good causes, it is an unending roar—sometimes for hours.  It is their legacy as bikers on Harleys.  Unfortunately, they pay with critical hearing loss that cannot be restored.  The rest of us pay with lost sleep and the inability to hear the TV.

Sound is measured in decibels. Sounds 85 decibels will do significant hearing damage. Power lawn mowers, as one example, reach 90 decibels. The roar of traffic on a busy street reaches 90 to 115 decibels.  Those rock concerts baby boomers love so much are 110 to 120 decibels.  Jet engine noise rates even higher still. 

The message here is—protect your hearing while you still can.

What’s more, protecting your hearing is also protecting other parts of your body.  Loud noise causes high anxiety, which leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, lost sleep, and additional stress.  Children exposed to loud noise struggle with all kinds of mental and physical health issues.  And, did you know loud noise can affect your pets the same way mentally and physically? It puts them on edge. 

I don’t know how to solve the issue of noise.  Law enforcement is tapped thin and there just aren’t enough police officers. They have bigger fish to fry – like homicide and other violent crimes.  Noise Pollution doesn’t even come up on the radar when it comes to state and local legislation—and even if it does, it will never be enforced.   

4 thoughts on “What’s All The Noise About?”

  1. Suffering tinnitus and with “profound” hearing loss – significantly at certain frequencies – I “hear” what you’re saying. Back in the 60’s at the qualifying range, we were never offered earplugs – ear protection of any kind – if we’d had it, it would have been confiscated – “not standard issue.” The range was not the worst of it. In the air. On post. Constant barrage.

    Now as a civilian, the only noise pollution that bothers me is the chest pounding “thump” from the car beside mine at a traffic light. Harleys? Not so much. And unless they’re rapidly accelerating, they don’t have to be loud. Okay, above, say a refined BMW 1000, loud, so I’ll give you that one.

    It’s part of that disrespect thing, we’ve mulled, discussed, kvetched, and ranted over. It’s the “all about me” society. Solutions? Ain’t got none. Looking, but empty-handed right now. Doesn’t mean I’ve given up trying to make a difference. Even a mild rant is an attempt. Someone will read you and think, “Gee, is this really me?” Those are the ones on the cusp of joining us as crotchety old gaffs anyway. Okay, let’s help them transition a few years earlier. The more of us (old dudes) there are, the more likely our message will be heard. Good read, man. Think piece. But then, I’m past the “cusp.”


  2. Hey thanks for the kind words and sharing your experiences. I am stone deaf from the scream and roar of jet engines (USAF and civilian). High ranges cannot be heard. I wore ear protection out there – but not always. I loved the symphony of classic jet engines. I due course, I began asking people to repeat themselves. Didn’t understand just how bad it was. Yeah – young people will never believe us. They’re not 60+ yet. Be safe friend…


  3. I was a “corporate musician” for 40 years. My hearing loss wasn’t profound, but like you, the high end fell off a cliff around 2k. I taught sound reinforcement, among other things, and knew all that high end is where the articulation for kids and women hits. I just let it slide. Until recently I read where blowing off your hearing loss is turning part of your brain off, and if you leave it on standby too long, you’re losing gray matter you can’t get back. So, after much proximity to Marshall stacks and screaming Leslie horns and my pair of 15/Cobraflex speakers and Phase Linear amps I was surprised to learn not “profound”. However, I have had a hole in my hearing, even when it was good, that kept me from hearing the alarms from digital watches and beeps from other old school digital hardware. At the draft office they gave me the hearing test 6 times to see if I was faking it. As for subwoofers, a little common decency would go a long way, but I’ve head that’s an endangered, if not already extinct concept.


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